Ebola has been a tragic reality for the people of Sierra Leone over the last two years. Though considered stable at the moment, the country is still very cautious.
Our teams have remained safe and are on the front lines of Ebola prevention through this water, hygiene and sanitation program. Your support acknowledges and celebrates their selfless work and bravery.
The entire team continues to express their gratitude for your support of communities in Sierra Leone, and we can’t wait to celebrate safe water together!
Welcome to the Community
This is a predominantly Islamic community that starts its day at 5 am to wash up and head out to the quarry. At the quarry they break stones, the only kind of work these people know. There should be time for prayers between washing and working, but people sometimes skip prayers because the quarry site where they break stones is so competitive. Prayers are instead held off until later. The children, with no school in their own village, walk two miles to the only school in the area. The children carry their uniforms in their bags and change after getting to school. They arrive for classes just in time, often missing devotions because of the long walk.
This is such a poor community that children cannot focus in school; they are more worried about how to help their families earn money on their return home. What they eat depends on this. Students are let out of school at 2:30 pm, but the walk home takes an hour. A marathon begins when they arrive at the village! With a change of clothes already in their bags, children rarely return to their houses but instead head to the quarry to find mom and dad. With the hot African sun on their backs, they spend four hours transporting stones to where vehicles can easily access them. What is cooked for the day depends on whether the stones pulled and transported are enough for a full trip. It normally takes two weeks to earn the equivalent of thirty dollars.
Life is very, very difficult in this village. They presently get their water from either the stream or the swamp where they've dug a hole to access dirty water. With no other options, everyone in the village drinks this kind of water. They live with constant stomachaches, typhoid, and worms.
Walking along a rough footpath only eight inches wide, susceptible to snake bites along the way: these are the dangers children and women face more than ten times a day to and from the swamp. Within four feet from the three-foot-deep hole, shoes are taken off, lest a person risk sliding in. Standing with feet spread wide apart, a child will proceed to perform a “touch your toes” routine to bail water with a small container. This water is poured into a larger container at the dug hole. The process takes only a few minutes, but then the real wait begins; waiting for someone to come and help hoist the oversized water containers up onto their heads. Women and children always try to fetch water in groups to avoid not having someone to help. Children often carry containers much too large, putting immense pressure on their spinal cords during the walk home. The way back is much more dangerous as their eyes can no longer focus on the foot path. To scare off a potential threat along the roadside, the children and women will loudly sing their melodious cultural songs. These loud songs and large groups of women and children will also deter sexual predators.
The average person carries a 10-gallon water container. These are cleaned with grass from the swamp that makes a foam that resembles soap suds. These seem to work very well.
Once home, the milky substance from the swamp has to settle before water can be used for anything. The water is normally left out in the open on the ground in the front room. A lot of people in this village have domesticated animals ranging from chickens, goats, sheep, to dogs and cats. The animals have a free reign of the water when no humans are supervising. The milky color never fades unless it is the rainy season when the water is clear, cold and good to drink. Indeed, “there is no need to cover the water, you will say your prayers and close your eyes before you drink!” says Thaimu Kamara, both farmer and chairperson from the quarry.
The shortage of a safe water source has led to some families moving to other villages. They only come back to Yinkaya Village to tend their farms. Ailments range from malaria, typhoid, abdominal pains and diarrhea to frequent vomiting by children and adults alike. People also get worms in their bellies. The fevers, constant headaches and eye infections are from a lack of clean water to maintain personal hygiene. Little fragments of tiny stone dust fly into the eyes of stone-breakers, and by the day's end their faces are covered in red. Use dirty water to wash dirty faces, and the eye infections continue.
Seventy-five percent of local families have pit latrines. The others use the nearby bushes. The stone-breakers, from sunup to sundown, are at the quarry. The latrines in the village are palm leaves braided together around a pit. The pit latrines have no roofs, so in the rainy season when nature calls, people use Lapa (a piece of African cloth) to cover their heads.
To fight the open defecation issue, we will address it during hygiene and sanitation training. If there is any disbelief when the problem is presented, participants will be taken on a transect walk around the community. They will be able to see for themselves as well as learn valuable lessons that result from valuable discussions!
A large portion of the villagers are illiterate. It is very difficult to change the mindset of individuals who have held on to certain beliefs for a lifetime. A majority of households only have one cup for over eight people to drink with. The face, skin tone and discoloration, and bloated stomachs are the telltale signs of worm ingestion. Farmer and stone-breaker Thaimu Kamara says, "Look at my eyes, look at my children’s stomachs. This is a crisis. The hard labor, not enough food, no clean water; all contribute to residents leaving to find greener pasture. The day-to-day exposure to the hot African sun breaking stones has left us with glaucoma, cataracts, and cornea damage. We need divine intervention." Though only age 36, he looks more like 56.
Plans: Hygiene and Sanitation Training
Hygiene and sanitation training will take three days, scheduled for up to three hours a day during the best time for as many as possible. We will need to work very closely with the community in order to get a good turnout.
One of the most visible results will be the hand-washing stations that each household learns to construct. This special but simple form of hand-washing station is called the "tippy-tap." The tippy-taps are easy to build and easy to maintain. A one-gallon rubber is tied to a stick with nylon rope. The soap is wrapped with fishing net to keep it dry and free from contaminants. The price of a bar of soap is one thousand Leones; the equivalent of ten American cents. Since this is an extremely poor community and we will need to entice them to attend training, we will probably provide all of the necessary materials such as the one-gallon containers. Most people in this village would strain to come up with the money to purchase a one-gallon container.
Plans: New Well
The new well will be located in the center of the village at the largest gathering point, the mosque. It is the most convenient for all, and is the furthest away from latrines and any other contamination sources.
We will be using the LS200 hydraulic rig with 4000 psi power, which can dig over one hundred feet. It is very easy to maneuver. It is also very cost effective and does not require an Ivy League knowledge to operate. Since this is a mud rotary drilling machine and water is a huge issue in this village, we will have water brought in by tanker and poured into a tank so we have the water necessary for drilling. After the well is drilled and constructed, an India Mark II pump will be installed.